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Frontier FiguresAmerican Music and the Mythology of the American West$
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Beth Levy

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780520267763

Published to California Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520267763.001.0001

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Frontier Figures

Beth E. Levy

University of California Press

This chapter discusses works that dramatize, in one way or another, the problems (political and aesthetic) of transposing the pastoral idyll onto the American frontier. The heroism of their twentieth-century pioneers typically resides in their struggle against nature, not their ability to live in balance with it. They work in a world where progress has already veered toward destruction and where efforts toward conservation have a special relevance: these frontier figures are at once the agents of violence against the natural order and the first victims if the balance tips too far. On the frontier, the recovery of a precarious pastoral balance requires an impulse not just to conservation, but to restoration—to the reversal and erasure of pioneering progress. In the end, it was not just the intrusion of the frontiersman into the Garden of the World that gave an American flavor to the pastoral mode. It was the land itself, and the abiding historical paradox that America's Garden of Eden was also its Land of Canaan.

Keywords:   American music, pastorals, American frontier

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